I was recently having a conversation with a close friend and she said something that has kept echoing in the back of my mind ever since. We were discussing frustrations in life and she said, “Our culture is so focused on being comfortable, that the moment something uncomfortable happens, we freak out.”
It’s like we believe that we were made to live a life of ease, and anything hard that sneaks in or gets plopped on our lap needs to be squashed. Sickness, feeling left out, car trouble, financial struggles, difficult work situations, failing at something, death, broken relationships, I could go on and on.
We don’t like being uncomfortable. We don’t like not knowing. We don’t like not having control.
But I don’t think this struggle is new to our culture. I’m reminded of Paul and the thorn he talked about to the church in Corinth.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
-2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
We don’t know exactly what that thorn was, but clearly we see that the Lord allowed Paul to experience discomfort. We get to read Paul’s raw and authentic words, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But…” The Lord heard Paul’s prayers, He listened, and He responded. But He told Paul it was better to have the thorn. He told Paul that in weakness the Lord’s power would be best displayed.
Up until now, I bet you are tracking and have a personal discomfort or thorn in mind. I even believe that you, like me, might be realizing that God is bigger than that discomfort, and His plan will prevail. But that doesn’t take away the sting or the nagging temptation to worry…and maybe that’s the point. Paul’s thorn turned his heart to the Lord again and again as he brought the discomfort to Him in prayer. Are we allowing these thorns (which come in all sizes) to draw us closer to our Savior, or are they so distracting and consuming that we find ourselves drifting away?
Let’s keep going. Did you catch how Paul closes this passage in 2 Corinthians?
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:9b-10
Therefore or because the Lord is allowing this discomfort, this thorn in his life, and because the Lord told Paul that His power will be made perfect in weakness, Paul BOASTS IN HIS WEAKNESSES! Can you believe it?
We live in a culture where weakness is definitely not something you talk about, and you definitely don’t boast about it. We want to hide it away, and we often don’t even admit it to ourselves. This is such a great example of why the Gospel, and following Jesus, is perceived as upside down. Our Savior, our King, left His throne to come to earth and live among us and then to be crucified by us, and take the punishment we all deserve upon Himself. All because He loves us, and desires a relationship with us. Talk about upside down!
But that’s what’s so beautiful about God’s love. And that’s my challenge to us all today. What thorn do you have in your life? What discomfort is plaguing you and consuming your thoughts? I encourage us all to cry out to the Lord in prayer. Start talking to Him about it if you haven’t already. Our relationship with the Lord is deepened through communication, through reading Scripture, praying, and sharing life with others who have a relationship with the Lord (a great book on prayer is “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller).
Alright, so we’ve acknowledged a thorn or a discomfort in our lives, and we’ve even begun to approach the Lord about it in prayer. But what if, just like Paul, God doesn’t take the thorn away? Can we still trust the Lord? Can we choose contentment in our “…weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities“? Can we be vessels He uses for His glory?
The answer? Through Christ, we can. Because it’s HIS POWER that is made perfect in our weaknesses. In a culture where comfort seems to be worshipped above all else, we have an opportunity to trust Him with our thorn, and let Him use our story to bring Him glory…to magnify His power. May these thorns turn our eyes to heaven, and remind us that one day all will be made right.
So the next time we experience discomfort, or feel that pierce of a thorn, let’s lean in and let go of control. Let’s trust the Lord and join with Paul in saying, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.”
*This song, “Blessing in the Thorn” by Phillips, Craig and Dean has been an encouragement to me through the years, I pray the Lord uses it to encourage you as well.